24 November 1995

NRA says more action needed to tackle pollution

By Liz Mason

MORE action is needed to curb water pollution by pesticides, says a National Rivers Authority report.

It makes 20 recommendations for future actions to reduce pesticide pollution including:

l"No-spray" zones of at least 6m (20ft) adjacent to all watercourses to prevent overspray and minimise spray drift and run-off (except for pesticides approved for use in or near water).

lMore effective use of set-aside to create buffer zones along watercourses, with the best solution being a change in EU rules to allow a 6m strip to qualify for set-aside.

lMore research into less intensive farming systems, including integrated crop management, biological control and insect-resistant crops and uptake of research findings by the farming industry.

lA government review of sheep-dip disposal arrangements and better information from MAFF on the use of sheep dips and other veterinary medicines.

lFurther improvements in pesticide formulations and handling.

lA full assessment of the economic case for water protection zones.

lPesticide distributors and agronomists to always consider water protection issues when recommending pesticides.

lA national pesticide pollution prevention strategy to be drawn up by government, regulatory organisations, pesticide manufacturers and distributors and users.

The report also presents the results of NRA monitoring for 120 different pesticides during 1992 and 1993. Analysis of samples taken from about 3500 sites revealed that 100 of those 120 pesticides were detected at low concentrations. Just over half were detected above the 0.1mg/litre EU limit set in the drinking water directive.

Results were also compared with environmental quality standards (EQS) set for about 20 pesticides by the EU and the Depart-ment of the Environment. This showed that more than 96% of sites were satisfactory.

The sheep dip pesticide diazinon, classified as a veterinary medicine, broke its EQS more often that any other. EQS failures for diazinon were clustered around areas linked to the wool and carpet industry. Other more random failures in Wales, Northumberland and the south west "are probably associated with sheep dipping", says the report.

The herbicides, diuron and atrazine, used mainly on non-agricultural land, and mecoprop, used on farmland, also exceeded the EU limit frequently during the two years. &#42